Heavier than thou

It's been a long, strange trip for Dave Wyndorf. His heady, heavier-than-thou band Monster Magnet developed a cult following in the early '90s with the indie-releases "Forget About Life, I'm High on Dope" and "Spine of God." Upon getting signed by A&M in 1992, Wyndorf and crew released "Superjudge," a bludgeoning mix of '60s psychedelia and '70s heaviness.

"Superjudge" restoked the "space rock" genre pioneered by '70s acid-explorers Hawkwind and spiced it up with Black Sabbath and Stooges influences. The follow-up, 1995's "Dopes to Infinity" contained the MTV-friendly single, "Megasonic Teenage Warhead," but mainstream, rock-radio airplay eluded Monster Magnet.

The band -- which includes guitarist Ed Mundell, bassist Joe Calandra and drummer Jon Kleiman -- release their newest CD, "Powertrip" this week. Wyndorf opted for a more straight-ahead rock sound. Still, he says, this album is not the accessible, alt-rock product the record company desired. "I wasn't feeling very psychedelic when I wrote it," he explains. "Essentially, the situation of me shaking hands with a major record label came up and bit me on the ass. But instead of trying to mastermind some zillion-selling record, I wrote these songs really fast, and just rocked."

The flashy video for "Space Lord" was filmed in Las Vegas, where Wyndorf wrote much of the material for the album. "Vegas is a place I can feel really anonymous," he says, "I've always believed Vegas is a place where everything comes to the surface. Besides, I was pretty much gambling, at this point, with my music."

The band also developed a reputation for excess, although Wyndorf claims to have cleaned up his act for the time being. Ironically, Monster Magnet will soon join a tour with Aerosmith -- the band that wrote the book on '70s bad behavior, and who then shot to unprecedented heights after straightening out.

But don't expect Wyndorf to start lecturing on the wonders of sobriety anytime soon. He says the desire to be an outsider drew him to rock & roll. "The thing with Monster Magnet is that, sometimes it gets so esoteric that I have to personally get in there and fight for its existence," says Wyndorf. "And if it means I have to argue in corporate boardrooms for a year, and actually get straight, then it's good. It paves the way for me to be a total fuck-up in the future."